In 2011, Shirome Owens was a free man for the first time in eight years.
He was initially released to Threshold, a halfway house on St. Paul Street in Baltimore city. For all former offenders, the first 90 days post-release is a critical period, and Shirome was well aware of the numbers—many end up right back in the system. “I was nervous, but I was trying to fight that statistic.”
That spring, Shirome saw that CFUF was visiting Threshold to talk about STRIVE®. He was feeling down on his luck after recently losing a job, but it turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise—“If I’d been working, I might not have been around that day.” Shirome took the opportunity to listen to what Mr. Cooper had to say about the program, and he felt like it was worth giving a try.
By enrolling in the STRIVE® program, Shirome learned many tangible job readiness skills, and with a lot of hard work and dedication, he beat the odds of recidivism. After graduation, Shirome stuck around CFUF to work in alumni services, and he eventually moved into his current position as Outreach Coordinator. Before coming to CFUF, Shriome had little knowledge of non-profits. He says, “I didn’t think a suit and tie every day was going to be my life. I thought I’d end up working somewhere else,” but his gift for reaching members and the desire to give back has led him to work on and off with CFUF for the last 8 years.
As outreach coordinator, Shirome gets to work “in the elements” and meet people where they are right now. “We go out wherever it is people are in need” in Baltimore City, including prisons, rehab facilities, community centers, libraries—sometimes even going door to door. Shirome enjoys being out in the field, connecting with people who really need to hear the message that there are still opportunities within reach. “If you change somebody’s perspective you can change their life. I’m living testimony that you can come out of it.”
“If you change somebody’s perspective you can change their life. I’m living testimony that you can come out of it.”
Shirome is a passionate advocate for Baltimore fathers. He aims to empower others to see the potential in themselves for great things: “Don’t set limits on yourself. If you have a guy with three skill sets, but he’s only doing one [at his job], he’s limited.” He encourages members to always continue improving themselves so they can always feel confident about their success in an ever-changing economic landscape. Plus with that confidence, they might even start their own business one day and be able to lift others up along with themselves.
With his enthusiasm for working at the grassroots level plus his entrepreneurial heart, Shirome sees himself running his own outreach programs one day. There is a huge need for housing for fathers in Baltimore, and Shirome would like to head efforts to fix up some of the rundown and unused homes in the area to serve that need.
Having been where a lot of CFUF members are now, Shirome’s biggest piece of advice is to be opportunity driven. “There are opportunities all around you—be open and willing to accept the right opportunity.” He acknowledges that, unfortunately, sympathy for former offenders isn’t always high—but you can’t let that cut you off from reaching your potential. “Believe you want to change. If you put energy into doing the right thing, good things can happen.”